ANDERSON — More than 100 people marched Saturday through downtown Anderson, adding their voices to the growing chorus against police brutality across the nation.
In Indianapolis, Atlanta, Minneapolis and other major cities across the country, protests sparked by the police killing last week of George Floyd in Minneapolis have often turned violent. Demonstrators have clashed with police, set cars and buildings on fire and looted businesses.
As of 10 p.m. Saturday, there were no reports of violence. A few police cars were seen along the march route; otherwise, officers’ presence at the demonstration was limited and inconspicuous.
Starting from Dickmann Town Center about 6 p.m., protesters, many carrying signs decrying police violence and declaring that Black Lives Matter, weaved around downtown government buildings.
They then headed west on 14th Street to Madison Avenue and to Nichol Avenue, and then followed the same route back to the Dickmann Town Center.
Throughout the route, protesters were greeted by honking of car horns and raised fists in support.
At one point, protesters congregated outside the Anderson Police Department headquarters with officers observing from the roof top. Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace!”
The Anderson Police Department took the precaution of moving all the department’s vehicles to the Central Services building earlier in the day.
On a few occasions Saturday evening in Anderson, tempers of marchers and motorists trying to pass through flared. At one point, there was a report of demonstrators hitting a car as it passed through the march.
Cheyenne Hewitt, a local resident, said she organized the demonstration because a charge of murder against a Minneapolis police officer in the death of Floyd doesn’t atone for all of the young black people who have died at the hands of police.
“We know that the police department in Anderson is corrupt,” she said. “There is so much evidence, and we’re just tired of it. It’s the ‘60s all over again.”
Hewitt said the local police department should be investigated for “fabricating evidence.”
On Hewitt’s Facebook post announcing the protest, she provided information about how to deal with injuries from bullets and tear gas and how to keep other demonstrators from being arrested.
“It was just a procedure, just in case,” she said minutes before the march started. “History has shown there will be a few bad apples. ... This is going to be peaceful unless the police start picking on people.”
Many of the participants indicated they would leave if the protest turned violent.
Dominic Willis, founder of the Westside Concerned Citizens Coalition, was at the Dickmann Town Center to “protest the protest.”
Willis said instead of protesting, the African American community has to come together to make their voices heard.
“No one is listening to what is happening here,” he said of the march. “They need to go to the city council meetings to make their voices heard.”
Willis said some people hoped for an outbreak of violence at the march to shed a negative light on the local African American community.
Jessica Martin of Anderson said, “What happened in Minneapolis ... was the final straw. People are done protesting, and it has gotten us nowhere.”
Shandaliegha Tharp, Anderson, came out to support all people.
“I’m just tired of everything that is going on,” she said. “You hear of all kinds of people dying, but something has to give.”
Bethany McNeal, Anderson, joined the protest with her husband and two children.
“We’re just tired of the injustice and the inequality of the violence,” she said. “What happened in Minneapolis was the breaking point.”
Her husband Matthew said that police action shootings are happening too often.
Bethany noted there’s always room for improvement in Anderson when it comes to cultural diversity.
“I just want to see everybody able to feel safe where they are and live their lives without fear,” she said.
McNeal said people were at the protest to support the cause and not to promote violence. She said it was important for her children to be there.
“They’re the next generation and the next voices to be heard,” she said. “It’s important for them to know and be raised the same way.”
Protester Emma Reedy, Anderson, said people have been protesting for hundreds of years and it’s made no difference. She said the difference now is social media.
“For the past month I’ve heard of several people who have died by police in Indianapolis,” she said. “It has gotten out of control. When you try to silence voices, that’s when riots break out. Everyone is scared, but it’s not a reason not to stand up and be heard.”
Corwin Sealthorne, Anderson, was protesting police brutality and racism.
“This has flared up by the way (Floyd) was killed, and we actually have evidence of it,” he said. “It helped that the police officer was arrested, but they don’t arrest everyone who has killed a black person.”
Floyd died while lying on the pavement with the knee of the police officer pressing down on his neck.
Sealthorne said there is a racial problem in Anderson and he has witnessed it.
“I’m not sure what should be done,” he said. “People should be kinder.”